Duke has only lost 3 games this season, one of them to the Syracuse Orange in overtime back on January 14th. This time, despite the absence of superstar Zion Williamson, the Blue Devils come out on top behind RJ Barrett’s 30 points.
Last month was just the second loss for the ultra-hyped Blue Devils. After losing 89-87 against Gonzaga back in November, Duke had yet to drop another game until the middle of January when they played Syracuse. It was an epic game, with Zion Williamson chipping in 35 points and 10 rebounds, while Barrett added 23 points, 16 rebonds, and 9 assists.
Their efforts weren’t enough, as Syracuse’s Tyus Battle scored 32 and the go-ahead basket in regulation to give them the 85-84 lead. Zion then split a pair of free throws to tie the game. After some fouls, Tyus Battle took a three pointer to try and win the game, but missed, leading to overtime.
In the overtime, Zion was nearly invisible and Syracuse jumped out to an early lead. Despite Barrett’s 3 pointer and assist for another 3, the Orange closed out with a pair of free throws and a dunk from Paschal Chukwu. Syracuse wins, 95-91.
Anytime this Duke team loses a game, it’s quite the topic of conversation, so you can imagine the Blue Devils were hungry for revenge. This time though, they’d have to do so without the help of Zion, lost to a freak shoe explosion against North Carolina a few days ago. The Blue Devils also dropped that game, but that one was more understandable, missing their best player the entire game.
Jim Boeheim was recently involved in a fatal car accident, but he was still there for Saturday’s game against Duke. Coaching was a way for Boeheim to move forward from the incident, even though the tragedy will stick with him forever.
Syracuse jumped out to an early lead, finishing the first half with a lead of 34-29. Duke wasn’t ready to forfeit the game, and roared back with a 46-31 finish in the second half to win the game, 75-65.
RJ Barrett led the way for the Blue Devils, scoring 30 points yet again with 5 rebounds and 7 assists to go with it. He also shot an impressive 14-20 from the field, quite an improvement from last time he played Syracuse and shot 8-30.
Barrett was not alone in his efforts, with sophomore Alex O’Connell having his best game yet. O’Connell scored 20 points, going 5-8 from the 3 point line to help Barrett mount a comeback.
Cam Reddish scored only 5 points, going 2-11 from the field. For the Orange, Tyus Battle scored 16 this time around, but went 4-17 from the field.
As a team, the Blue Devils shot 44% while the Orange shot only 34%. We can credit Duke’s defense and Syracuse’s inability to operate an offense that game for that.
This was the last meeting for the two teams, with Duke still at 1st in the ACC at 24-3, and Syracuse now 5th in the ACC at 18-9. Syracuse will play North Carolina next on February 26th.
Duke will play Virginia Tech on February 26th, and has a rematch against North Carolina on March 9th. It is unclear yet whether or not Zion will play in either matchup.
March Madness is nearly here! Will Zion play another game this year? Or have we seen the last of him in a college uniform? Either way, RJ Barrett will still be here to put the team on his shoulders.